When you drink alcohol, you feel the need to urinate more often. Alcohol is also a known diuretic, so it can give you diarrhea. These effects are short term.
Light to moderate drinking isn’t likely to have much lasting impact on your digestive excretory system. Heavy drinking is the problem.
In 2017, more than a quarter of Americans (ages 18 and older) drank heavily in the prior month, according to a national survey. Regular heavy drinking can make it difficult for your excretory system to work properly. A buildup of alcohol and its metabolites in your system can cause a wide range of problems that can be deadly if left untreated.
The digestive excretory system keeps the body stable by helping to eliminate waste, namely from things you eat and drink. The digestive excretory system then helps to excrete liquids from the body that it isn’t going to use (unnecessary material) through urine.
The excretory system is made up of four main components.
When you take drugs or drink alcohol, your digestive system helps to break down and metabolize these toxins. Then, the excretory system works to expel them. Commonly abused drugs can interfere with the normal functions of your digestive excretory system in specific ways.
Alcohol is primarily filtered through the liver. Unlike other things that you eat and drink, it is directly absorbed into the bloodstream. This means that the kidneys will have to work overtime to try and pull the toxic metabolites that alcohol creates out of the system.
When you drink a lot of alcohol, two main things can happen. It can either cause a backlog in your system, leading to infection or sepsis, or it can cause your body to remove the liquids too fast, causing malnourishment and/or dehydration.
Alcohol enters your bloodstream quickly and can start impacting your mind and body within 10 minutes of taking a drink. Your liver can only metabolize a little alcohol at a time, and the rest remains in your bloodstream for the time being.
Short-term effects of alcohol on your excretory system include:
In the case of excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol poisoning, Mayo Clinic warns that severe dehydration, seizures, hypothermia, irregular breathing and heart rate, brain damage, choking, and loss of consciousness can occur. An alcohol overdose can be fatal, often due to stroke or heart attack.
Most people who drink do so in moderation. Heavy or excessive drinking can cause a lot of issues socially, personally, emotionally, and physically. Heavy drinking is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as 15 or more drinks a week for a man and 8 or more drinks in a week for a woman.
Binge drinking is a type of excessive drinking that raises your BAC (blood alcohol content) to above the legal limit of 0.08%. Usually, this means five drinks for a man (four drinks for a woman) in a two-hour time period. Regularly binge drinking can wreak havoc on your brain and body.
Alcohol can build up in the body, which can lead to infection or sepsis. When your kidneys can’t filter out alcohol through urine quickly enough, it can back up, causing inflammation and infection. An untreated infection can then lead to sepsis, which can be life-threatening.
As a diuretic, alcohol can also lead to dehydration and an imbalance of important minerals, nutrients, and electrolytes. This can cause unhealthy weight loss and malnutrition.
Other potential long-term effects of heavy drinking on your digestive excretory system can include:
The CDC warns that binge drinking can cause acute kidney failure, but the damage can often be reversed if you stop drinking and allow your kidneys time to heal. Depending on how long and how much you drank, this recovery timeline can vary.
Some of the damage can be irreversible, however. Regular heavy drinking doubles your risk for chronic kidney disease. This risk quadruples if you also smoke.
Alcohol can raise your blood pressure, and regular heavy drinking can cause chronic high blood pressure. This is another risk factor for kidney disease.
Kidney disease can lead to kidney failure. You may then need to endure regular kidney dialysis to filter your blood and keep things properly balanced, or undergo a kidney transplant. Heavy drinking can make it hard for you to qualify for a kidney transplant.
Alcohol is a social beverage, and it’s seemingly everywhere in society. Again, it’s generally safe to drink in moderation.
Regular heavy drinking can lead to an alcohol use disorder (AUD), however. This is a treatable brain disease. About 16 million people in the United States struggle with an AUD, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) publishes.
You may need treatment for alcohol abuse if you:
Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink can positively impact your body and brain, and allow your excretory system a chance to health. Get help to stop heavy drinking and give your digestive system the best chances of a full recovery.